2016 Reviews · contemporary fiction · Ireland

Book review: Reluctantly Charmed by Ellie O’Neill


r charmed

Book blurb:

It’s Kate McDaid’s birthday and she’s hoping to kick-start her rather stagnant love-life and career when she gets some very strange news. To her surprise, she is the sole benefactor of a great-great-great-great aunt and self-proclaimed witch also called Kate McDaid, who died over 130 years ago. As if that isn’t strange enough, the will instructs that, in order to receive the inheritance, Kate must publish seven letters, one by one, week by week.

Burning with curiosity, Kate agrees and opens the first letter – and finds that it’s a passionate plea to reconnect with the long-forgotten fairies of Irish folklore. Instantly, Kate’s life is turned upside down. Her romantic life takes a surprising turn and she is catapulted into the public eye. As events become stranger and stranger – and she discovers things about herself she’s never known before – Kate must decide whether she can fulfil the final, devastating step of the request . . . or whether she can face the consequences if she doesn’t.

Reluctantly Charmed is about what happens when life in the fast lane collides with the legacy of family, love and its possibilities… and a little bit of magic.

4.5 stars

Ellie O’Neill’s debut novel Reluctantly Charmed is a delightful story that I relished for its traditional Irish charm, culture, folklore, mystery, family roots and light romance.

Reluctantly Charmed centres on the story of Kate McDaid, whom I found completely likeable main protagonist from the very start of the book. Kate is a young Irish woman, struggling to make it as a copy-writer and is generally out of luck in the love and life department. On her 26th birthday she discovers she is the only benefactor of an inheritance, courtesy of a long lost great aunt. There is a catch this surprising inheritance. Kate must fulfil the wishes of her great aunt to claim her inheritance, which is a rather strange request – she must publish a set of her aunt’s seven letters. Each must be published one at a time, weekly. As Kate begins to closely follow her aunt’s instructions, she is catapulted into a world she didn’t know existed, a magical past of fairies and Irish magic. As the letters get stranger, so does Kate’s once ordinary life.

I loved the tone of this novel from the very beginning, much like the charming Irish folk I have had the pleasure to have known. It is simply a grand novel, packed to the brim with humour, good fun and rich culture. Although this is Ellie O’Neill’s first novel, I feel she succeeds as an engaging storyteller, she had me captivated throughout my reading experience of Reluctantly Charmed. I enjoyed the references to Irish traditions, storytelling and the sense ‘make believe’ depicted in the novel. Reluctantly Charmed is an unusual novel, I couldn’t really pin it to a specific genre, rather it is a fusion of magical realism, fantasy and contemporary women’s fiction. The drawcard of this novel for me is the author’s finely tuned descriptions of the setting – Ireland. I had the opportunity to visit this part of the world last year and I welcomed the opportunity to go back and re-imagine the picturesque rolling green hills of Celtic land through O’Neill’s eyes. I also really loved the characters in this novel, they are highly likeable and guaranteed to make you chuckle more than once.

Reluctantly Charmed is a novel that enamoured me completely, with its playful approach to themes such as mystery, romance, self discovery and traditional folklore. I loved that it was a complete departure from anything I have read for some time. This is feel good, indulgent reading at its best.



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